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Week 1 Preview: Illinois football hosts Toledo to open the season



Illinois Football Staff Has an Elite DB Sell
Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; the Illinois Fighting Illini take the field fro the the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Football hosts Toledo on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

Expectations are high in Champaign, and they should be. The Illini had its best season in quite a while. Illinois football arguably has the best offensive/defensive line combination in the Big Ten this fall. The combination of new and returning pieces gives Illinois quite a formidable team in 2023: their first opponent, perennial MAC powerhouse Toledo. Here are three reasons Illinois wins its season opener.

1. The Illini have the advantage in the trenches:

The left side of Illinois’ offensive line is one of the best in the Big Ten, if not all of college football. Guard Isaiah Adams and tackle Julian Pearl could be early-round draft picks. If Pearl plays to his ceiling, he could go in the first round, while Adams could be one of the first guards in the draft.

Toledo’s defensive line held its own in MAC play, but it was dominated against Ohio State. The Buckeyes scored 77 points and amassed over 700 yards of offense.

Defensively, the Illini should not have an issue with Toledo’s offense. DeQuan Finn is one of the best quarterbacks in the Group of Five, but he struggled against Ohio State in 2022. The Illinois defense will bring pressure all game long, forcing Finn to create space to throw.

All in all, Illinois is bigger and stronger on both sides of the line of scrimmage. That makes things difficult for Toledo.

2. Altmyer should open the offense:

Tommy DeVito was an upgrade at quarterback in 2022. Atlmyer has all the tools to be an upgrade over DeVito this season. Expect offensive coordinator Barry Lunney, Jr. to be aggressive against a secondary that allowed 482 yards and five touchdowns against Ohio State last year. With Altmyer throwing deep, running lanes should be open for Josh McCray and company to get what they want on the ground.

3. These are the games you win:

Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh told Crash Davis that he wanted to “announce his presence with authority.” That’s what Illinois needs to do Saturday night against Toledo. The MAC is a lower-tier Group of Five conference. While the football is quality amongst themselves, Illinois should dominate. The Illini are bigger, faster, and stronger on both sides of the ball.

Bret Bielema understands how to coach a team that has expectations. So, the Illini should dominate this game from start to finish.

Betting odds and how to watch:

  • Spread Favorite: Illinois (-9)
  • Moneyline: Illinois (-371), Toledo (+289)
  • Total: 46 points

If you wager, take the Illini, the points, and bet the over. Illinois wants to send a message Saturday night against a lesser opponent.

Where to watch: The Big Ten Network


Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.